Wednesday, November 4, 2015

IWSG - Wednesday .... Finding Happiness

Today is the first Wednesday of the month when writers around the blogosphere come together for a virtual group hug. Hop over to the HQ to see other bloggers who are posting today. Click on the pic above to get there.

So last week Hubby and I spent in Banff, Canada to celebrate his 40th birthday. It was bliss. Such a beautiful place. All that fresh air and spectacular scenery is just what  I needed. I've been in kind of an "I suck" phase for awhile now. You know the one--where no matter how hard you try, everything you do just feels mediocre at best?

Being immersed in the grandeur of the Canadian Rockies reminded me how small and insignificant I am, but in a good way. A way that reminded me how trivial our problems are in the grand scheme of things. All my creative efforts felt so amateurish. As odd as that may sound, it was refreshing.

                                                (photo credit: MY OWN) :)

Having that time not to dwell on goals and work related efforts rejuvenated my spirit. On the way home, I began thinking of all the things I needed to do to get caught up, and I was starting to feel a little stressed. But there was one thing that made me feel really happy, and that was the upcoming arts and crafts market for PK's Pixies. I only had a day to prepare by the time I reached home, but instead of feeling stressed, I felt excited. I couldn't wait to get there and do my thing.

It was such a natural high that carried over right into market day and I had a fabulous day with good sales.

Why it's relevant to today's post, is that it made me realize how important it is to find what makes us happy. Work can't always make us happy, but we can find other things that do.

Writing makes most of us happy or we wouldn't do it. But when it comes to our stories, are we writing what makes us happy? Are we marketing our published works in a way that makes us happy? Are we happy with our publishing paths? Do the social media outlets we use make us happy?

If not, why? What can we do to change it?

I gotta say, that exhilarating rush of happiness I felt when I thought of market time is something I hadn't felt in a long time. That's my own fault for not paying closer attention to my spirit's whisper.

I'm not saying everything in life has to make us happy, but I am saying that if you haven't felt joy or happiness in your work in awhile, maybe it's time to rethink your path and goals, and determine how you can put yourself on the path to happiness.

Writing makes me very happy. There are parts of the publishing machine that don't, but that's the yin to the yang.

Bottom line, life is short. We shouldn't have to suffer through everything. We do the work that must be done so we can spend the rest of our time focusing on the things that makes us happy.

By the way, I happened to see Jamie Ayres has a post on being happy today too, so hop on over for a peek. She's a true gem!

And next month I'll be back to my Movie Breakdown for you on Silence of the Lambs. Hope to see you then!

Tell me, are you happy with your choices? Are there things you can be doing differently? What is it that makes YOU happy? 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IWSG- Wednesday and Shawshank Redemption Breakdown

Hey, groovy cats! Meeee-ow!

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and you know what that means .... Insecure Writer's Support Group posting around the blogosphere. I've been a part of this group since it started a couple years ago and I can say there isn't a more supportive and uplifting writing community out there.

Click on the pic to get to HQ and see all the fellow writers who participate.

I took a blogging break over the last six months or so, but I knew I wanted to come back for IWSG Wednesday because you have all been there for me over the years, and I want to be there for you.

BTW .... for some reason Blogger likes to eat my comments on your blogs. On some blogs it's no problem and my comments append, and on others, I comment repeatedly and nothing happens. So if anyone knows WHY this happens, please let me know so I can fix it.

Alright, let's get to it.

Today I'm breaking down the structural beats of the widely loved film, Shawshank Redemption. It's based on a Stephen King novel, and after hearing so many people say this is one of their all time favorite films, I had to get in there and dissect it. I confess, I love it, too. It's an epic story of redemption. The stakes are high, and things continue to get worse and worse, until our main character is hanging by the last thread of his sanity. And we love watching him come out on top in the end.

Here's the breakdown using the Save the Cat method on story structural beats:


Genre:  Institutionalized

A 1940s car in a gravel driveway of a middle class suburban home. Inside the car is Andy Dufrane (played by Tim Robbins). Old timey music is playing on the car radio. Andy has a look of distress on his face. He reaches for a gun from the glove box, holds it. Then takes a drink of liquor and focuses on the house in front of him. We never see what happens next.

(Does your story have an opening image that sets the tone for the entire story??)

We jump to a courtroom trial with Andy on the stand. The prosecuting attorney recaps the events that got him there. Andy’s wife had a lover and Andy allegedly shot and killed both his wife and her lover in cold, meditated murder. We hear both sides of the case, from the lawyer and from Andy’s testimony, but we are unable to determine if he’s guilty, and it’s an era before forensic science could prove a case. Andy is stoic and un-remorseful, giving him a look of guilt.

(Perfect example of leaving the audience with questions and wanting to know more)

Regardless of Andy’s claim to his innocence, he is doubly sentenced to life in prison, stating the theme that offenders go on to receive their punishment, pay their debts, so that justice is served. Freedom is taken away from those who commit a crime. 

(This theme provides a delicious twist of irony in the end)

Andy is sent to prison for reform. Welcome to Shawshank.

We cut to Red (played by Morgan Freeman) and he is sitting in front of a parole board trying to prove he has been reformed. He tries to convince them he’s no longer a danger to society. He is rejected. Perhaps justice is not blind, or perhaps Red simply does not deserve freedom.

Red is back in the prison yard and we are introduced to him as the narrator of Andy’s story. When he narrates Andy’s arrival to Shawshank, Red says none of the inmates expected Andy to last. A breeze would blow him over, Andy was so withdrawn. No one believes he will make it past the first night, much less, to ever see his freedom again.

Andy needs help from Red, since Red is the man who can get things. He asks Red to get him a poster of Rita Hayworth and a rock hammer (a foreshadowing of what’s to come/plant in the story.) This is where their friendship begins.
We are also introduced to the warden and the warden’s rules. He stands for two things: discipline and the Bible.

This is where we see what prison life is really like. Caged lowlifes, criminal hierarchy, beatings and hounding. We see an inmate break down into tears on his first night, daunted by the finality and severity of this punishment. We also see what Andy is made of on his first night, and he never sheds a tear. Is it because he is truly remorseless? Or because something stronger resides inside him?

Andy’s having trouble with the "sisters," and he’s having trouble making friends. Red warns Andy to grow eyes in the back of his head. Red confesses he likes Andy and values their friendship.
Andy’s sculpting rocks now, admitting he’s a rock hound (another plant/foreshadow), and even remarks that tunneling out of prison with a rock hammer would take 600 years.
The warden demonstrates his surprise inspections (more foreshadowing.)
We also see how paraphernalia is moved in and out of prison under the guards’ noses. 

The sisters attack. Sometimes Andy gets away, and sometimes he doesn’t. The first two years in prison Andy suffers multiple assaults from them because prison is no fairy tale world. The attacks become routine and Andy often shows up with fresh bruises. But Andy makes a name for himself when he offers to help the head guard with his taxes. Soon the warden hears of Andy’s skills and takes advantage of his financial wisdom. Andy makes friends by trading his services for two six packs of beer for his fellow inmates on the roof, and this wins him favor with the others. At one point, Andy is beaten within inches of his life and put in the infirmary. This ticks off the head guard so he beats down the sisters and has them moved to another prison. Andy is now free from them, but also, now under the scrutiny of the warden, as he’s working in his office keeping his books and crunching his fraudulent numbers.

We see a clip of lifetime inmate, Brooks, being released on parole now that he’s an old man with no family left and nowhere to go, only a measly job of bagging groceries. He ends up hanging himself because he can’t handle the real world. This shows us what prison can do to a man, what it takes away from him, even after he’s out.
For Andy, we learn through a new inmate, Tommy, that he truly is innocent. Tommy tells of a man he was once in a different prison with, and how that man confessed to killing some banker’s wife and lover, and getting away with it because the law tried and convicted the banker. When Andy presents this new information to the warden, the warden refuses to acknowledge its legitimacy and throws Andy in solitary confinement for insubordination.

(Perfect example of how important information is withheld from the audience until well past the mid point)

The warden keeps Andy in solitary for a month—the longest anyone has ever been down there. The warden has Tommy, the only witness to Andy’s innocence, shot and killed in the prison yard to prevent his prized possession and financial advisor, Andy, from having his case reopened. Andy is given solitary another month so that he has uninterrupted time to consider the warden’s leniency. The warden threatens to throw Andy in with the sodomites and burn down the prison library that Andy worked so hard to build, if Andy doesn’t give up his quest for a new trial. Here, Andy remembers loving his dead wife while she was alive, but also driving her away with his lack of emotion. Prison has opened his eyes to who he was, but he can’t let it take away who he is, or who he’s meant to be.
Red is rejected by the parole board once more, after serving thirty years of his life sentence.

Andy dreams of life outside prison. He’s different after solitary--quieter, broken, but not beat. He talks with Red about a place in Mexico called Zihautanejo and encourages him to visit it someday. They both know it’s a pipe dream, but it represents freedom. Freedom that Andy craves, and Red fears. Andy tells Red if he ever gets out, to look for a rock wall near a big tree and there will be something buried beneath a black rock there. This leaves Red worried of what dark plans Andy may have. Suicide, perhaps?

Andy comes up missing at role call one morning. Red and the other inmates are nervous. Inside Andy’s cell, we see no body, nor any sign of Andy, only his rock sculpture collection, and poster of Raquel Welch. The alarm sounds and the warden sends for Red, to question him.
We see the chain of events leading up to that moment. A rewind of images: Andy shines the warden’s shoes in the warden’s office that day, but puts them on his own feet instead of leaving them out for the warden. He deposits the warden’s papers and money into the safe, but it’s not like it should be. A bigger plan is already in place from years of mail correspondence the warden has no knowledge of.
In his anger, the warden throws one of Andy’s rocks at the poster on his prison wall on the end block, and it bounces and echoes in the distance behind it, alerting him, and Red, that foul play is afoot.
Andy’s tunnel is revealed, as well as the way Andy crawled through the wall and through a sewage pipe, eventually making it to freedom in a ditch on the other side. Prison allowed an innocent man the perfect crime. Andy was able to tunnel out in under twenty years. All the money handling he’d done for the warden was placed in an account under someone else’s name—all part of Andy’s grand scheme—one that he’d already gotten new fake IDs for while biding his time in prison. Money to keep him well provided for, for the rest of his life.
At last, Red is granted parole from the board.

What freedom feels like.  Andy on a white sand beach, sanding a boat. Red strolling beside the pristine ocean waters to be reunited with his friend. Fade into panoramic of beach. What freedom looks like. 

So tell me, are you a fan of this story? Why or why not? Do you find it helpful to break down stories into beats to improve your own writing? I use these beats when plotting and it's become a tried and true technique. Is there a film you'd like to see me breakdown? Feel free to share in the comments ...

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

IWSG- Wednesday! And #UtopiaLove 2016

Hello there! I hope you've had a wonderful summer. I took the hot months off to regroup and redirect, and I'm feeling all the more fresh because of it.

I am so happy to be back in time for the Insecure Writers Support Group post. It's every first Wednesday of the month. Big thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh and the crew for creating it and keeping it going, and a special thanks to Alex for reminding me what an awesome community it is.

This post is also a part of a blog hop promoting the super-fantastic-astounding Utopia Conference. #Utopia2016  .... and here's my short video contribution on what Utopia did for me this summer:

Utopia 2016 has a Go Fund Me page because it just keeps getting bigger and better and of course, money is needed for that, so here is the page should you feel so inclined, and there are some fantastic prizes!! Here's the RAFFLECOPTER link for the raffle.

If you've been wondering about attending a con, I can't recommend this one enough. It's not only a gathering of like-minded peeps, but we've all become a family who really care about each other. "Lift as you climb," is Utopia's motto.

Click HERE to get to the page and learn more.

As for my IWSG blog post today, I thought I'd do more of an introduction into what I'll be focusing on over the next few months, and I welcome your feedback. When I think about what matters most to me in blogging content, it's stories. I adore them. Brilliant storytelling, strong writing, riveting characters ... all of it.

So every first Wednesday of the month, for IWSG, I will break down a movie into beats. Not just any movie--but one with clever storytelling. I'm choosing to do movies instead of books because, quite simply, it's faster. Movies give us the gist of a great story while developing all the important elements. I'll be focusing on structural beats a la Save the Cat methods. I've found it's an excellent way to understand storytelling from master storytellers, and it reflects in our own storytelling when it comes time to write.

Next month, I'll do Shawshank Redemption. If you have a movie you'd like me to do, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll add it to my list. Again, I'm focusing on movies that leave you with that brilliant story hangover.

What say you? Ever break down movies into beats? Any movie you'd like to see broken down? Has a conference ever inspired you to do something? 

Monday, April 27, 2015

An Online Auction for Writers and Readers

Hey friends! I'm popping in to let you know about an online auction happening RIGHT NOW!!

Get thee over to AUCTION HQ and peruse all the amazing items up for bid.

Items like:

  • Agent critiques and consultations
  • Story software from Save the Cat, Scrivener, Vellum, and more!
  • Pub pros consultations like The Plot Whisperer, Mary Kole, Susan Kaye Quinn, and more!
  • Kindle Fire loaded with ebooks
  • Signed paperbacks from bestselling authors
  • Book tour, swag, Authors Training Authors and Emotion Thesauruses

And so much more!

Twenty bundles in total! Check them out and plan your bidding strategy. Auction is open til Friday, May 1, at 6pm EST. Afterward, we will have a Facebook wrap up party and announce winners, as well as give away prizes. Hope to see you there! Invite all your friends!

For the complete program and bundles up for bid, go HERE.

To get directly to the auction, go HERE.

And if you can, help spread the word by sharing via a blog post, tweet, Facebook share, or whatever floats your boat. 100% of the proceeds will go to Queena and her family toward the therapy that costs them over $100K every year.

To learn more about Queena, visit her website,

Thanks so much for stopping by! Let me know if you have any questions.

This auction is hosted by NA Alley.

I love you guys and miss you! Hope you're all having a fabulous A-Z month!! I'm slaving away on pixies and the Mended by Love memoir. I'm always available via email if you need anything.

Have you stopped by the auction? Bid on anything? Drooling over anything? Tell me all about it...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

IWSG - On Rejection ... and a special announcement!

Happy March! As always on the first Wednesday of the month, writers around the blogosphere come together to share ups and downs of the writerly lifestyle. All are welcome! Feel free to join the group, as it's an excellent way to network with other bloggers and writers. Click the picture above to get to IWSG HQ.

I've been thinking a lot about rejection lately, and how crushing it can be to our fragile egos. Rejection comes in so many ways-- from literary agents, to editors, to those who review our published work and don't jibe with it. It really does take a rhino-skin to keep moving forward.

What I was reminded of these past couple of months, is that rejection is not just for writers. We do not suffer a unique form of adversity because we choose this writer's path. Rejection is a reality for every artist, as well as professionals in the work place.

I've been declined positions before when interviewing in my corporate job. That's rejection. And in positions where I've been accepted, others were rejected. As an artist/craftsman, last month, I put in for two art shows I've never done before for PK's Pixies and was rejected by both. Had I not had so much experience with rejection through the query process, this may have led me to believe my art wasn't good enough.

It did disappoint me for a few days, but I pressed on, and did the art shows where I was accepted. Then something wonderful happened! Three other art markets either accepted my application, or invited me to be a part of one I'd never heard of. Had I given up, this never would've happened.

Writing is no different. Rejection is not exclusive to our art form. Everyone deals with it, and maybe not as much as we do, but rejection can come in so many forms.

It's something helpful to remember when we're wallowing in our writerly misery and wondering why we ever thought we could be successful at it.

Hope you have a wonderful writerly Wednesday!

On to my special announcement ...

Our amazing writers' community is sponsoring an auction of epic proportions! NA Alley will host this year's online auction event April 27-May 1 and all the funds raised will go to Queena. If you don't know who Queena is, she is the incredible young woman I'm writing a memoir about. At age 18 she was attacked while returning books to her local library. Beaten, raped, strangled, and left for dead, she suffered severe brain trauma and eventually went into a coma.

This year she'll celebrate her 25th birthday, but her years from 18-25 have been nothing like she'd planned. Every day is a struggle and accomplishment. She's blind, unable to speak, or care for herself. She requires round-the-clock care. But she's making strides every day! It costs over $70K a year for her medical expenses and therapy, and the family relies on donations and fundraisers to cover these costs.

We over at NA Alley are so excited to host this event and do something really nice for Queena and her family--something that they won't have to lift a finger for.

And we need YOUR help! We are accepting donations of any kind from authors and publishing professionals across the industry. We will take ebooks, signed paperbacks, audiobooks on CD, gift cards, book swag, publishing services such as editing, formatting, cover designs, etc., query and first page critiques.

Anything of value to a reader or writer is welcome. In return, we will be advertizing for you via our online auction. Bidders will see your name and/or logo, and/ or book cover when browsing the auction. This auction will be open internationally, so it will reach places that may never before have seen your book or service.

If you can donate, please leave me a comment with your email, or email me directly at  and please feel free to share this around the internet. Spread the word!

Help us show Queena lots of love, and that goodness always prevails over evil. Watch her latest video to learn more about her. Her family is so appreciative of any and all support, and they are good, honest, loving people.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

IWSG -- Under Pressure -- and Where's PK? MIA?

Hey there! Long time no write, eh? Click on the picture above to get to IWSG HQ and see all the participants. I've been a bit MIA on the ol' blog here as of late, but I'm still around and kickin'. Lots has happened over the last two months and I needed a bit of a blogging break.

For starters, my father-in-law lost his battle with cancer in December, about a week before Christmas. If you've been following this blog, you'll know that he was diagnosed with kidney cancer last May, and later they found it had spread to his lungs and brain. He fought as hard as he could and tried everything to rid his body of this ruthless infection, but in the end, it was just too far advanced.

He passed three days before his 70th birthday.

But the family is all doing well and nothing came as a surprise. The obvious deterioration brought on by the cancer left no confusion as to what surely awaited. My husband got to be there for his father's final days, and eventually, his final breath.

Life goes on for the rest of us, and during these last few weeks I've learned a few things about myself and my goals as a writer.

For one, I'm much happier and excited to write when I take the pressure off. In early 2014 I wrote a prequel to my Butterman series, as well as a sequel, and published both. I also met with Queena's mother and collected data and wrote the first half of her memoir, in addition to running a successful Kickstarter campaign.

I do not in any way feel I wasn't productive. On the contrary, I probably applied a teensy too much pressure, and by the end of the year, I was feeling it. I think it's natural to want your work to succeed so much that you pile on the pressure, but in the end, it has an adverse effect and I found myself wondering what it was all for ...

When someone close to us dies, it inevitably puts life in a new perspective, and for me, that meant slowing down to appreciate what I already have.

Secondly, I learned that I need other creative endeavors to stimulate me. Something happened to me after I published Induction Day and I sort of lost my writer's mojo. Not in a bad way though, because what occurred as a result is hours on end of handcrafting my pixies. By December I had enough to do two local art shows plus some, and the response I got from my inventory was exciting. People were digging my art and little girls were going nuts for PK's Pixies.

So I made more, and did more art shows. Needless to say, it's proving to be a worthy endeavor. I know it's not going to make me rich or anything, but it's an immediate high when I can display my art and see the smiles it brings, as well as collect some cash for it.


And the cool thing is, it helped me rediscover my writing mojo. I need that alternate creativity to fuel my writing creativity, and I wasn't allowing myself time for it because I was putting too much pressure on myself to write.

Every writer is different, and some won't need that alternate creativity, but what I learned about myself is that I do.

And I'm totally cool with that.

Third, I was reminded that these years with my family are truly precious and I can't let anything take me away from that for long. My children are still young, and my parents are getting more fragile. This is no time to separate myself from any of them by the crazed need to put out three or more books a year. It's just not possible for me.

Which brings me to another point I learned: slow and steady wins this writer's race to the finish line. It's not a sprint, and there is no need to keep up with other writers who can put out three or more books a year.

So with the start of 2015, I'm feeling that I'm in a much more realistic and better place. I've got more art shows lined up, and of course I have my writing goals. I finished my short piece From Passion to Publication, which is a special gift to those on my email list. Anyone who joins will receive a link to this courtesy PDF about my journey and my advice.

I'll be on my first panel in June at UtopYA in Nashville, and I'm excited about that. It's the only conference I'm doing this year, which is another change I made. The panel is on time travel--will it be possible in the future? And get this--I'll be on it with the top selling time travel author for the last two years, Rysa Walker. Coolness, right?

If you've stuck with me this far in this post, you're a superstar! Thank you so much for your support and encouragement over the years. As I shift more and more to my website and email newsletter, I use this blog less and less. But it isn't forgotten! Anything important will always find a place here.

Oh and that's another thing I've changed-- no more book promo unless it's a close friend. I got so burnt out with posting book promo, and seeing it, last year. I don't want this blog to be a commercial, but as always, a means of support and friendship with other writers and readers.

Thanks so much for stopping by! I'm posting on Operation Awesome every other Tuesday, and still serve as the speculative fiction ambassador on NA Alley.

Tell me what you've been up to ... can you relate to being under pressure? How do you alleviate it? Have you lost anyone you know to cancer? Fill me in on anything I've missed ....